‘Icon’: Les Twentyman farewelled

The late Les Twentyman was remembered as a veteran youth worker who advocated for disadvantaged and vulnerable Victorians, tackling issues such as youth homelessness, drug abuse, prison reform and social welfare. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Hannah Hammoud

Victoria has said its final goodbye to Les Twentyman, a “true son of the west” and a champion for youth across the state.

Family, friends, political leaders and the public gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday morning to bid a final farewell to Les who died in late March at age 76.

By his own words, Les described himself as a “well-known troublemaker” and “mad stirrer” from the west.

And as his younger brother Garry took to the podium to deliver his tribute, it was clear that Les had always marched to the beat of his own drum.

“It was very handy being brought up in Braybrook [and] having a brother that was three years older than me. Because he could actually tell me all the things that you could actually get away with, and those that wouldn’t work. And it saved me a hell of a lot of heartache, and we managed to get through,” Garry said.

“Les was one of the first inmates at Braybrook High School back in 1960 … the teachers quite frankly thought they were in control of the school – but I’m quite sure Les was. Les and his cronies basically went to school to fill in time between social events and sporting events.”

Les’ sister Sandra shared stories of the Twentyman household where the five children were raised in Braybrook.

Their parents ran a fruit shop on South Road and Sandra said they did everything they could to put food on the table.

“We found out at a very early age that pride was a useless emotion when you were poor,” she said.

“… Les was put to work on a paper round as soon as his legs were long enough to reach a pedal on his second hand bike created from scraps from the Sunshine tip – my father’s favourite playground.”

Premier Jacinta Allan addressed the service as she remembered Les and the lives changed by his work.

“We all know Les was a man with a big heart and his absence leaves an even bigger hole,” she said.

“… [He was] darkly funny, fiercely honest and always playing down the enormous difference he made.”

Maribyrnong MP and close friend of Les, Bill Shorten, said Les’ life changed the course of many others.

“Les was a true son of the west. Les was a Victorian to his core. I think he was as much a part of this great city as our mighty MCG, and the people whose lives were changed and helped by Les could fill that mighty ground several times over,” he said.

“That’s what mattered to him. Not fame or fortune. Not clenching fists or throwing in the towel. Not bothered about looking good, focussed on doing good.

“… Les became an icon but he was never an ornament.”